Our New Testament reading (Matthew 16:5-23) takes us to the far northern part of the Holy Land, to Caesarea Philippi, to the foot of snow-capped Mt. Hermon pictured above. On the map below you can determine distances by using the Sea of Galilee for scale – it is 13 miles north to south. So it is about 35 miles from Capernaum to Caesarea Philippi.
At the foot of this tallest mountain in Israel, Jesus asked the most important question: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered wonderfully; however, he had a mistaken notion of what the Messiah's ministry was to be like. As Jesus for the first time begins to explain his suffering, death and resurrection, Peter is appalled. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
In our Old Testament lesson (Job 11-14) Job and his friends are saying the same thing about faithful followers of God. "Never Lord! Nothing bad should happen to one of your faithful!"
Job's friend Zophar concludes that Job was getting what his sins deserved. He accused Job of being a mocker, a deceiver, witless. Bad things are happening to Job because he isn't really a believer!
Job desires "to argue my case with God." Even though Job feels like God is treating him as an enemy, you will still see the flicker of faith in Job's words: "Though he slay me, I will yet have hope in him."
The reality is that for Jesus and for us, his followers, victory comes only after the cross. Jesus would suffer and rise. That is our path too. We have the call to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow him. Part of that cross is denying the natural desire to accuse God of making a mistake when we are suffering.
Remember, our Savior God is still sitting on the throne, ruling all things. He will never leave us or forsake us. In the midst of our suffering, let us say with Job: "I will yet have hope in Him."
Job's friends failed him in his suffering. May we not fail our brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of the God's family today. May we connect with those who are suffering, who are in pain, who are troubled. Let us pray with them and help each other find hope in God.
Your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Christ,